School Groups – Pre-Teaching Guides for the Museum of Coastal Carolina

Here are some ideas that will help to maximize your students’ experience when visiting the Museum of Coastal Carolina.

A great time to start discussing your field trip is driving over the Odell Williamson Bridge to Ocean Isle Beach. Tell your students ahead of time that they will be going over a large, high bridge that connects Ocean Isle Beach to the mainland. The body of water they will be crossing is the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The Waterway is 3,000 miles long. It runs the length of the Eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida. It is part man-made and part natural. Questions to ask your students as they cross the bridge are:

  • Do you see water?
  • Do you think it is high tide or low tide?
  • Is it the ocean?
  • Can you see the ocean?
  • Do you see any animals? Boats? People? Birds?

Once you arrive at the Museum, a staff person will meet you in the parking lot while the students line up. We will then divide into smaller groups and begin to tour the Museum’s galleries.

Changing Tides Gallery

  • Shark jaws
  • Megabites shark teeth exhibit
  • Wave machine
  • Tide machine
  • Shore is Shifting exhibit
  • Herman and NC whales


Erosion, wave, energy, crest, undertow, frequency, tsunamis, rip current,  sand bar, earthquake, wavelength breaker, trough, long shore drift, surf, barrier beach, dune, hurricane, high tide, low tide


  • What is an ocean wave?
  • What things determine a wave’s height, frequency, and wavelength?
  • What happens to a wave as it approaches the shoreline? Why?
  • What are tsunamis?
  • How does the energy of tides and waves affect the shoreline?
  • What is a rip current?
  • What precautions can you take when swimming in the ocean?
  • Why is it important to control the pollution of our oceans?
  • What can each person do to help reduce pollution?

For more information about tides, go to:

Shark Teeth and Jaws

  • Look at the shark jaws. Notice that sharks have several rows of teeth.
  • When one tooth falls out, the one behind replaces it.
  • Sharks have an infinite number of teeth. They grow new teeth throughout their lives.
  • Many students will notice that sharks’ teeth are white on the jaws but black when found on the beach. This is because the teeth on the beach have become fossils.

Waterways Gallery

  • Litterbug Hall of Shame
  • North Carolina River Basins
  • Pollution: Streams to the Sea

For more information about North Carolina river basins and non-point pollution, go to:

Green Swamp

In our Green Swamp diorama, students always ask about the animals. They were alive at one time. After they died of natural causes or an accident, they were stuffed and mounted so that we could view, study, and learn about them here in the Museum.

A swamp is a wet habitat that provides a home for a large variety of plants and animals. Our diorama shows wetlands, swamp, and woods and displays the animals of Coastal Carolina in their natural habitats. You will see alligators, snakes, wild turkeys, water birds, flying insects, and mammals. A good activity to do with the students is to try to categorize the animals by their class.


Swamp, forest, beach, habitat, mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, fish, survive, predator, prey, food chain, insect, shelter, camouflage, similar, different, shellfish


  • How many snakes do you see in the swamp?
  • Which animals live primarily in the water?
  • Which animals can climb trees?
  • What types of insects do you see?

For more information about North Carolina’s Green Swamp, go to:

Seashore Gallery

  • Touch Tank with live sea animals
  • Animal relationships and habitats
  • Movement patterns and feeding habits
  • Personalities and peculiarities of the animals in the Touch Tank
  • Shell collection with over 200 shells
  • Fossil collection
  • Minerals found in one cubic yard of water
  • Touch animals in Touch Tank with docent’s assistance

Touch Tank rules to discuss with your students:

  • Wait for instructions before putting your hands in the water
  • These are living creatures and you need to respect them
  • Keep all animals under water
  • Do not touch the fish. Touching fish removes their protective coating and they could become sick.
  • Do not pull animals that have attached themselves to the side of the Touch Tank. Pulling an animal from the side of the Touch Tank could injure it.
  • Use one hand and two fingers to touch animals


Anemone, hermit crab, scotch bonnet, bivalve, invertebrate, sea urchin, camouflage, mollusk, egg cases, conch, horseshoe crab, sea star, fossil, blenny, univalve, whelk, tentacles, habitat


  • What do these animals need to live? (Water, sunlight, food)
  • How are these animals similar? How are they different?
  • What is the difference between a bivalve (mollusk with two shells) and a univalve (mollusk covered with a single coiled shell)?
  • What shells do you recognize? Which shells have you found on the beach?
  • What is the official North Carolina state sea shell? (Scotch Bonnet)
  • What is the official South Carolina sea shell? (Lettered Olive)

For more information about Coastal Carolina sea shells, go to: 

Ocean Reef Gallery

This gallery features a diorama of natural and man-made reefs that could be found 65 miles off the North Carolina coast. It includes:

  • Life-size models of whales and sharks
  • Fish with distinctive characteristics
  • Rays, octopus, sea turtles, eels


Reef, extinct, microscopic, camouflage, food chain, pollution, vertebrate, invertebrate, adaptation, habitat, plankton, coral


  • 71% of the earth’s surface is water.
  • All oceans and seas are connected.
  • People around the world depend on fish as a main source of food.

For more information about oceans, go to:

Barrier Island Gallery

This gallery features:

  • Shipwright’s tools
  • Navigational equipment
  • Model ships
  • Differences between land and sea turtles
  • Life cycle of Loggerhead sea turtles
  • Life-size model of a Loggerhead mother sea turtle
  • Video filmed on Ocean Isle Beach of a mother sea turtle laying her eggs in the sand and the baby turtles hatching 55 days later
  • Sea Turtles: A Game of Survival – A hands-on game that explores the dangers a baby sea turtle faces once it hatches


Dunes, endangered, flippers, hatchling, island, loggerhead, nest, tracks, sargassum, Gulf Stream, incubate, carapace

For more information on Loggerhead Sea Turtles in North and South Carolina, go to:

For children’s activities about Loggerhead Sea Turtles, go to:

Coastal Plain Gallery

This gallery features:

  • Mounted American Bald Eagle
  • Mounted shorebirds
  • Diorama of waterfowl
  • Mounted backyard birds
  • Bird nests and eggs
  • Native American cultural artifacts
  • Hands-on deer bones, food, alphabet tracing


Beak, adaptation, talons, feathers, warm-blooded, species, habitat, markings, bill, predator, hatchlings, mud flats, migrate

For information on shorebirds go to: